The White House Pre-9/11: Secret Memos and War Plans

Revolutionary Worker #1152, May 26, 2002, posted at

Eight months after September 11, news leaks are forcing the White House to admit that George W. Bush received an intelligence briefing on August 6--more than a month before 9/11--warning that al Qaida was planning hijackings against U.S. targets. The disclosure is rocking the Bush administration and has touched off a storm of controversy within the power structure.

Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress are demanding that Bush explain what he knew before September 11 and calling for investigations into "intelligence failures" by the White House, FBI, and CIA. The Bush administration lashed out at Congressional critics. Vice President Dick Cheney practically labeled as treason any suggestion that the White House had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks, calling such statements "thoroughly irresponsible and totally unworthy of national leaders in time of war."

In an unusual appearance before the media, Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, tried to defend the administration by saying that the threats mentioned in the August 6 briefing and other intelligence reports were vague in nature and pointed mostly to possible attacks overseas.

But further information continues to come to public light. Shortly after Rice's appearance before reporters, the media reported that the August 6 briefing for Bush in fact focused mainly on possible al- Qaida attacks in the U.S., not overseas. The Washington Post reported: "The document, known as the President's Daily Briefing, underscored that Osama bin Laden and his followers hoped to `bring the fight to America,' in part as retaliation for U.S. missile strikes on al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan in 1998."

The media spotlight also focused on an extensive White House plan to go after al-Qaida, including through war, in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. The plan--reportedly okayed by the Bush team the week before September 11--was on Bush's desk, ready for his signature of approval, on September 10.

And a 1999 report commissioned by the National Intelligence Council--described by the New York Times as "an interagency group that oversees intelligence analysis throughout the government"--listed suicide hijackings as one of several methods that al-Qaida might use against U.S. targets.

The controversy is developing as we go to press. More revelations could surface. According to the Washington Post,"Members of the congressional committees investigating the pre-Sept. 11 warnings said yesterday that there is far more damaging information that has not yet been disclosed about the government's knowledge of and inaction over events leading up to Sept. 11."

As the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (CORIM) has pointed out, given the murky world of intelligence services--where duplicity and double-dealing are the currency--it may be impossible to know even exactly who organized the September 11 attacks or what their motives and connections are. Similarly, the world may never find out exactly what the Bush administration and the U.S. government knew, and when, about the September 11 attacks before they happened.

But these recent revelations about top-secret presidential briefings and intelligence reports do raise deep questions about the actions of the U.S. government and military after September 11--the massive bombing of Afghanistan, military moves and threats around the world, and the intensification of repression within the U.S.


CONSIDER THIS: In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the U.S. quickly geared up for a war in Afghanistan. Bush and the U.S. government portrayed themselves as reacting in an emergency mode to a sudden threat against what they called "our way of life." In reality, the Bush administration had already developed a highly detailed plan for war on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and elsewhere--before September 11. The plan was in the form of a National Security Presidential Directive.

NBC News described the Presidential Directive as a "game plan to remove al-Qaida from the face of the Earth." According to NBC News, "The plan dealt with all aspects of a war against al-Qaida, ranging from diplomatic initiatives to military operations in Afghanistan.... In many respects, the directive...outlined essentially the same war plan that the White House, the CIA and the Pentagon have put into action after the Sept. 11 attacks. The administration was most likely able to respond so quickly to the attacks because it simply had to pull the plans `off the shelf'.... Such a directive would normally be approved with the president's knowledge by his Principals Committee, which in Bush's White House includes Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and CIA Director George Tenet, among other senior administration officials."

QUESTION: Whatever the Bush administration knew before September 11 about possible al-Qaida actions, doesn't the existence of this Presidential Directive make clear that the U.S. was planning military attacks on Afghanistan in any case--and that September 11 provided a pretext for the planned U.S. war in Afghanistan as well as military moves elsewhere in the world?


CONSIDER THIS: One of the official reasons from Washington for the war in Afghanistan was that the fundamentalist Taliban government had refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and members of his al-Qaida organization. Taliban officials repeatedly and publicly asked the U.S. for evidence that bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on September 11. The U.S. replied harshly that their demands were "non-negotiable" and that they did not need to provide any evidence to justify their military actions.

QUESTIONS: If the U.S. government had information--even of a general nature--before September 11 about al-Qaida plans for an attack in the U.S., why didn't they reveal what they knew? Doesn't this show that actual evidence is irrelevant to the U.S. government--that their war actions are based not on justice, as they claim, but on the predatory aims and interests of their global empire?

If the government hid the fact that they already had information before September 11 to cover their ass, what else are they hiding?


CONSIDER THIS: Since September 11, the U.S. government has instituted extreme repressive measures in the name of "protecting the American people." These measures include setting up military tribunals to try people behind closed doors; the questioning and jailing of thousands of Arab, Muslim, and South Asian people; the persecution of lawyers who defend people accused of "terrorism"; military-like security measures at airports and on airliners; increased government snooping on the Internet; and many others.

One of the questions reporters asked Condoleezza Rice was why the Bush administration did not institute tighter security on air travel before September 11 in light of the reports about possible hijackings. Rice answered that such a step would have thoroughly disrupted airways and negatively impacted the economy. But according to news reports, the U.S. government issued internal warnings in the summer of 2001 about hijacks, and many U.S. officials began using chartered planes instead of commercial flights on trips. Among those officials was Attorney General Ashcroft, who took a chartered plane for his own vacation.

QUESTION: Don't the actions of these political representatives of the U.S. imperialist ruling class show that they do not give a damn about protecting the lives of the common people?


CONSIDER THIS: A bitter dispute has been touched off in the halls of power by the revelations about the information the Bush administration had before September 11. But the terms of this debate do not question the worldwide "war without end" that the U.S. has declared, nor the unprecedented attacks on people's rights here in this country. What the Democrats (and some Republicans) are questioning are the government's "intelligence and security failures." There are calls for the U.S. intelligence agencies to "tighten up" their operations and for the government to set up even more heightened "security measures." This can only mean more sinister operations by U.S. spy and police agencies and more repression against the people.

QUESTION: Shouldn't the exposures of the U.S. government's secret war plans and intelligence reports lead many more people to raise basic questions about the whole war-and-repression juggernaut of the U.S. imperialists?

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